In addition to being charged in state court, someone who is accused of selling or otherwise delivering controlled substances may also find themselves the target of a federal investigation and, ultimately, a criminal charge under the laws of the United States. The federal penalties for drug crimes involving trafficking are severe, even for a first-time offense.
For instance, a person convicted of dealing in a relatively moderate amount of cocaine or heroin will face at least 5 years in federal prison and up to 40 years. For a subsequent offense, the minimum penalty is 10 years, and life in prison is a possibility. Aggravating circumstances, such as if someone was seriously hurt during the course of a drug deal, can leave an Alabama resident facing a mandatory life sentence.
Likewise, trafficking in larger quantities of controlled substances, or substances that the government deems especially dangerous, may lead to lengthier terms in prison. For instance, dealing in more than 5 kilograms of cocaine carries with it a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum sentence of life, even for a first offense.
Facing federal drug charges can be scary for a number of reasons, even aside from the stiff penalties involved. Federal investigators and prosecutors are very well-trained, and they have the unlimited resources of the federal government behind them. Likewise, federal court procedures are complicated and different from those in Alabama state courts, and these procedures can serve as a trap for the unwary and uneducated. This is why planning one's criminal defense strategy early is imperative.